Wallabies slam tilt face early acid test

17Jul

The Wallabies are determined to nip an England uprising in the bud this weekend when their grand slam ambitions face a massive first-up test at Twickenham.

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Australia-England Cook Cup clashes are big anytime the Wallabies venture to London but even more is riding on Sunday morning’s (AEDT) European tour opener.

Ten years after the English celebrated a World Cup final victory in Australia, Stuart Lancaster’s men have already put the Wallabies on notice as they prepare to host the 2015 tournament.

Both top-four ranked nations have been drawn into the ‘pool of death’ with Wales (No.6) and England skipper Chris Robshaw wants his young side to gain an early psychological edge by turning Twickenham into a home fortress.

The ground holds no fears for Australia at present as the Wallabies have won four of their last five games there.

Newly-appointed Wallabies captain Ben Mowen agrees the tussle holds extra significance this time as the teams start looking ahead to the World Cup.

“Having in the back of the mind that we will play them in the pool match there, it is important but when you just look at it as a stand-alone game it’s England versus Australia and that’s important enough,” Mowen said.

“These are very special games for Aussie rugby players.

“We’re all well aware of the responsibility that comes with it.”

England coach Stuart Lancaster views it as the start of a “defining year” of internationals for his side but Australia (3-7) can atone for a forgettable season of their own by starting their grand slam tour successfully.

With Tests against Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to follow, England loom as the biggest threat.

“The grand slam will be something that will come into more focus if we have done our job going into the last weekend in Cardiff,” Mowen said.

But helping the Wallabies is the fact the home side hasn’t played together as a top-strength unit since the 30-3 Six Nations-deciding loss to Wales early in the year.

They are also missing influential British and Irish Lions’ tight-five forwards Alex Corbisiero and Geoff Parling and damaging centre pairing Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt.

The injuries have left them with an inexperienced starting 15 that boasts 213 caps, 12 less than the 225 on the bench but Lancaster has selected on form and looked ahead to the future rather than rely on past stalwarts.

Mowen, who is yet to be offered an ARU top-up contract for next year, tipped a barnstorming game by deposed out-of-form skipper James Horwill who needs to be at his abrasive best to nullify the English pack.

The Wallabies front-row also shoulder major responsibility at scrum time and must find the consistency they’ve lacked under the new soft engagement laws.

“England are England – you know what is coming,” Mowen said.

“It’s going to be a big battle up front, and the last few years they have certainly played with more width and willingness to attack.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge.”

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